Review and photographs by J Hunter
It’s kind of sad to think this night of technically acoustic, but spiritually electric, music wasn’t even supposed to happen. The Courtyard Café was supposed to belong to the Lost Bayou Ramblers, a Grammy-nominated Cajun rock band from (Where else?) Louisiana, but they had to cancel. By sports standards, a substitute is never as good as the player he or she replaces, but I’ve seen Mose Allison pinch-hit at Caffe Lena, so bang goes that stereotype. As last-minute gets go, MASS MoCA hit the lottery with Stephane Wrembel, whose past appearances in Greater Nippertown are the stuff of legend.
For someone who came to New York City in 2000 with only $300 in his pocket, the French guitar wizard has done tremendously well: World tours, six recordings (seven if you count the one coming out on September 13) and music in two Woody Allen films. The latter point is crucial, particularly when you factor in Allen’s longtime love affair with the music of Django Reinhardt. There are more than a few groups out there perpetuating the sound created by Reinhardt and the Quintette du Hot Club de France, but – like MASS MoCA – Wrembel thinks outside the box, augmenting Reinhardt’s iconic sound with influences from Africa, India, Japan, and a host of places Wrembel has seen on his personal & professional journey.